Understatement OTD: “One of the things we will be looking at urgently is the communications team”

Says the representative of the Argyll and Bute Council in Scotland, whose heavy-handed response streisand-effected a regional scandal (sparked by a blog recording and rating school lunches) into a worldwide media storm on their banning nine-year old food blogger Martha Payne from taking photographs of her lunches at school (provided by the Council). The school itself was fully supportive of her efforts, and it’s very important to note that Martha was not always critical of the food provided, even on occasions giving 10/10 ratings. It took only a couple of negative ratings to start other people criticising the local authority’s meal plans, and the scandal blew up when Jamie Oliver took notice.

In what appears to be a coming trend, a bullying attempt to silence a critical voice has ended up benefiting a worthwhile project tangentially. The publicity storm has raised the profile of the charity for which Martha has been fundraising, as people who read her story responded with calls on Twitter for donations when she said she feared not being able to raise her goal of £7,000 after the photography ban:

Martha has now raised more than £75,000 for development charity Mary’s Meals after 5,500 people contributed.

From the Mary’s Meals website:

Mary’s Meals is an international movement that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. Mary’s Meals is a simple idea that works – by providing a daily meal in a place of education, chronically poor children are attracted to the classroom where they can gain a basic education that provides an escape route from poverty. Over 600,000 children receive Mary’s Meals every school day. The average cost to feed a child for a whole school year is £10.70 / €12.40 / $16.80.

On Martha’s donation page (now up to over £80,000 raised) we can see that her initial fundraising goal was rather modest:

When Mary’s Meals starts doing lunches in a new school they have to build a kitchen first. They cost £7000. I’d really like there to be a NeverSeconds kitchen but maybe it shouldn’t be called NeverSeconds because there will be seconds, for everyone!

As the Mary’s Meals blog noted on Friday (when the fundraising hadn’t yet hit £50,000):

Thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts of nine-year-old Martha Payne and her supporters, enough money has now been raised to build a kitchen shelter, feed an entire school, and now provide Mary’s Meals to thousands more hungry children for a whole school year!
[…]
The fact Martha has broken her original target means we have been able to allocate her a school in Malawi, the African country where Mary’s Meals feeds more than 540,000 children every school day. As well as being able to build a brand new shelter, thanks to Martha and her supporters, we will also be able to feed all the 1,963 pupils at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi for an entire school year!

The new kitchen which will be built in Malawi as a result of Martha’s efforts will be named ‘Friends of NeverSeconds’ as a recognition of the worldwide support which she has received.

All remaining donations will go towards feeding as many hungry children as possible with Mary’s Meals in some of the world’s poorest countries. So far, over 5,000 more kids will receive Mary’s Meals for a whole school year thanks to the incredible support given.

Her father announced that the family has also turned down various chequebook churnalism interview offers in favour of working with the council and celebrity chef Nick Nairn to reform the school lunches menu.

Martha is authentically awesome.


The Telegraph (UK) is yet another online newspaper that appears to have a policy against linking, or at least a bad habit of often not linking, to the blogs or official websites of people/organisations they are writing about. So above I’ve linked to Martha’s blog, Martha’s charity donation page and the official website of the Mary’s Meals charity so that readers can easily learn more with a few clicks. Bonus: You can read the updated official statement from the Argyll and Bute Council here. (And here’s the council’s original press release, courtesy of the internet-never-forgetting.) See, corporate media? LINKING – NOT THAT HARD TO DO.



Categories: education, ethics & philosophy, health, media, parenting

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies

  1. What Martha has achieved is great (and yay for internet win vs politicians). I hope her example encourages others both young and old to advocate for change in everyday life. Very simple to just show people on a blog what is going on do but can be so effective.

  2. This is especially the power of tightly focussed blogs, where the accumulation of datapoints just grows and grows without distraction by other topics. Perfect for advocacy.

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